Why School Doesn’t Prepare You for Life
Tl;dr: life is about figuring out what to do and how to do it by yourself. School merely trains you to follow already-made instructions to reach an established goal.
When I was a kid, my grandmother told me the story of a doctor.
Ever since he was a child, the doctor had been a brilliant student. When he graduated from high school, he had decided to study medicine. During his studies, he was one of the best students of his promotion. He aced every test and was highly regarded by his professors.
Many had predicted him a great career.
After he graduated, he went on to work in a hospital. Unfortunately, he didn’t last a year there.
The reason? He sucked at his job.
School Doesn’t Teach You to Work
The doctor was smart. He was a hardworking person. His capabilities were perfectly suited for the school system, which is why he had excelled there.
The doctor was good to study, but he wasn’t good with patients. He had few social skills and failed to treat them correctly. He didn’t really enjoy direct contact with them. He liked looking at a list of symptoms, and investigate the disease. Not listening to people complaining all day long.
The doctor liked to follow a structure. He liked to know where he was going. And he was really good at it. This is why he had been a good student.
However, he sucked for improvisation.
As soon as a patient didn’t behave how he was supposed to, the doctor struggled. As soon as he had to improvise or get out of his academic framework, he was lost.
What the doctor excelled at was following a plan to reach a given purpose.
He was good at executing instructions.
But he sucked at finding them out himself entirely.
School and Life Are Completely Different
School doesn’t teach you to think. It teaches you to follow a bullet points list and achieve a preconceived goal.
When the teacher asks you to write an essay or to perform an exercise, you’re given some instructions to follow and an example outlines how the final result should look like. You are trained to read, understand, and execute the instructions.
As such, school is great for people who understand what they are being asked. School is great for those that like to study and do what they are told.
This isn’t surprising if the best students often make the best employees. An employee is asked to do a job, not to think about why there is a job to do.
The opposite is true for creative people. Creatives don’t enjoy school. They usually suck at it. They don’t want to follow guidelines to make something for someone else. They would rather create them, or make something of their own entirely.
Creative don’t understand the purpose behind following instructions. They don’t understand why they should do what they’re being asked if they have could do something else – that they often deem better.
As such, creatives suck at school. They fail and are oriented towards other career paths that will suit them better.
Good at School Means Nothing in Practical Life
I liked school not because I was good at it, but because I had no responsibility.
If all I needed to do was to follow instructions to make what was asked of me, I gladly did so. Over time, I became better, but I have never been the first in the class.
Now that I have graduated and worked for 3 months, I am discovering how life has little to do with school.
First of all, no one is giving you instructions about life. You’re supposed to figure it out yourself. Second, there is no “ultimate result” to reach. There is no mandatory work to do. No assignment.
As such, if you don’t do anything out of your life, no one will come and give you zero. No one will inquire to know whether you are “on the right tracks”. It’s on you.
Exercising to be healthy is on you. No one will come and tell you to do so.
Managing your money is on you. No one will save you if you run out of it.
Doing your job at work is on you. No one will come to check if what you did was correct (and if it wasn’t, the entire company will be penalized).
Finally, if you gather the strength to give yourself a purpose (a homework), you’ll have to figure out instructions by yourself.
You’ll have to solve problems by yourself. You’ll have to persevere by yourself. No one will oblige you to fulfill what you said you’d fulfill. No one will threaten you because of “bad grades”.
It will be all…on you.
The Bottom Line
School teaches you to understand instructions and execute them. It is great for people that wish to follow a preconceived path. All you need to do is excel at doing what you are asked to.
However, life is very different. For any initiative you envision to take, you will have to figure out by yourself what the end result should look like, and what are the instructions to achieve it. If you decide to buy a house, no teacher will give you a bad grade for buying the wrong house.
You’ll have to live inside and suffer the consequences.
Unfortunately, people that are good at doing what they are told seldom perform at figuring it out for themselves…and the other way around.
This explains why so many kids that struggled at school ended up doing life much better than their peers that aced every test.
Creative people are particularly bad at school since the system isn’t suited for their skills. The number of actors, painters, singers, drawers, and other creatives that hated school, or quit it early, confirm this relationship.
School is not everything. We tend to overvalue its worth in society. At the end of the day, your grades do not determine your value within the economic machine. It’s all about how well you can solve a problem.
And at that game, creative people are much better. They are the ones that see the untaken path, the one everyone is struggling to put together.
Following instructions is great if you’re at school.
But figuring out how to make things work yourself is much better if you wish to succeed in life.